"Human beings are the most important," says Cuban youth

By Margrethe Siem, in the Militant,
11 April, 1995

HOUSTON - "If by democracy you mean homelessness, or you mean the democracy of racism, or where every four years parties organize a carnival and millions of dollars are spent, where candidates promise everything and nothing changes, then no, we don't want that kind of democracy," replied Cuban youth leader Kenia Serrano to a student's question at the University of Texas (Pan American) in Edinburg. Serrano, along with Rogelio Polanco, were recently in Texas as part of their nationwide tour.

For the first time ever, students and professors in this south Texas campus town near the border with Mexico had the opportunity to hear young communists from Cuba. Some 250 people heard the Cuban youth in several classes and a public meeting.

"When the revolution started we wanted good relations with the U.S., but because we are socialists the U.S. became hostile," Polanco said. For us "human beings are the most important."

Serrano, a 21-year-old student at the University of Havana, explained that eight students her age are members of Cuba's National Assembly, and that 16 percent of the elected municipal government is under 30 years of age. "In Cuba election campaigns are not based on who has money," she said. "The candidates have equal opportunity to campaign." The two Cuban youth leaders also visited a cooperative organized by the United Farm Workers union, and discussed with them the growing anti-immigrant campaign and its impact on the tens of thousands of farm workers in the Rio Grande Valley.

In Houston, about 50 students attended a class at the predominantly Black Texas Southern University. One student compared the U.S. embargo imposed on Cuba after the 1959 revolution with the U.S. Civil War. "You can't expect a slave master to praise the slave for winning his freedom," he said. Serrano and Polanco also spoke to 150 students at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, and spent one hour live with Rolando Becerra, Cuban-American host of La Tremenda, one of the most popular Spanish- language radio stations in Houston.

At the Iglesia Lutherana Esperanza they spoke to a crowd of mostly Central American immigrants who were invited by church organizers and by the Gulfton Area Neighborhood Organization. Serrano said in Cuba the church and the state are separate, and that despite earlier tensions, "relations between them are more cordial today. Everyone can practice their religion."

Serrano and Polanco met with local trade unionists including four leaders of an International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union organizing drive in Houston. These workers told the Cubans about their experiences trying to unionize mostly Salvadoran and Mexican workers in a number of Houston sweat shops.

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